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It’s normal to feel a little apprehensive from time to time. Let’s face it—life can be stressful. All of us worry about things like financial problems, work, family struggles, or health. But sometimes anxiety can become so severe that completing simple, everyday tasks is difficult. When this occurs, it may be a sign of generalized anxiety disorder.
People with generalized anxiety disorder worry about many things, even when there is little reason to worry. Their stress level is so high that it interferes with their relationships and day-to-day activities.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America. Approximately 6.8 million adults suffer from generalized anxiety disorder and women are twice as likely to be affected as men. It often starts during adolescence and symptoms tend to magnify during stressful periods in life.
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Signs of Anxiety in Women
Among the common anxiety symptoms that turn up in women (and also in men):
- Constant feelings of worry and tension
- Worrying about simple, everyday tasks
- Inability to relax
- Unrealistic view of problems
- Difficulty concentrating
- Restlessness and being “on edge” or easily startled
- Feeling tired all the time
- Irritability and mood swings
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Frequent headaches
- Depression symptoms
- Muscle tension, aches, and body pains
- Trembling or twitching
- Difficulty swallowing
- Feeling light-headed or short of breath
- Stomach pains and nausea
- Feeling the need to go to the bathroom frequently
Medications to Treat Anxiety
Common medications used to treat generalized anxiety disorder include benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Valium, and Ativan. The problem with these medications is that they are highly addictive. When a person becomes dependent on these chemicals, they can develop further psychological and physical distress as well as experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking the medicine.
Sometimes, antidepressants are prescribed to treat chronic anxiety and panic attacks. These medications include Paxil, Effexor, Prozac, Lexapro, and Zoloft. However, these medications can cause a slew of side effects and often are ineffective.
Lavender is an herb that has been proven effective by leading researchers as a natural remedy for treating signs of anxiety. In a study published in the journal Phytomedicine, lavender oil was shown to be just as effective as the pharmaceutical drug lorazepam (Ativan). Furthermore, lavender oil showed no sedative effects (a common side effect of lorazepam) and it had no potential for drug abuse or dependence. Other studies have confirmed the anti-anxiety properties of lavender as well as many other medicinal benefits:
- Lavender helps with restlessness, nervousness, and insomnia.[4,5]
- Lavender helps with depression symptoms.[6,7]
- Lavender can be used for painful and inflammatory conditions including migraines and joint pain.
- Lavender can help people who suffer from agitation related to dementia.[9,10]
How to Take Lavender Oil
If you’re interested in using lavender oil to calm nervousness and other signs of anxiety, what’s the best way to take it?
Lavender oil can be taken by mouth in adults, but it can be difficult to find capsules even at health food stores. The lavender oil capsule preparation used in the study cited above is called Lavela WS 1265. Before purchasing lavender oil, you should consult with a health care professional to determine the dosage that is best for your needs. Children should not consume essential oil capsules.
Lavender essential oil in liquid format, lavender leaves, and lavender flowers are more readily available than capsules and can be added to bath water.
- Six drops of lavender oil extract or 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of dried lavender flowers may be added to bath water.
- You can prepare lavender tea using 1 to 2 tablespoons of whole, dried flowers for each cup of boiling water. Steep for 10 to 15 minutes, and use a tea infuser or strain before drinking.
OTHER NATURAL REMEDIES FOR DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY
Depression and anxiety may be due to a neurochemical imbalance in the body such as serotonin deficiency or dopamine deficiency. For anxiety that manifests itself as acute panic attacks, our article “Natural Remedies for Panic Attacks Backed By Medical Science” offers a specific solution.
Lavender used as aromatherapy or by mouth may increase the amount of drowsiness when taken in combination with pharmaceutical medications such as benzodiazepines (Xanax, Ativan, Valium), narcotics such as codeine, or certain antidepressants. If you’re taking prescription medications, consult with a health care practitioner.
For further reading, see these University Health News posts:
What Anxiety Remedies Work for You?
Share what works for you to help calm you down and deal with anxiety. Tell us in the Comments section below, and you’ll be helping other readers as well.
 Anxiety Disorders Association of America.
 PLoS Medicine Vol. 5, No. 2, e45.
 Phytomedicine. 2010 Feb;17(2):94-9. Epub 2009 Dec 3.
 J Altern Complement Med 2005;11:631-7.
 Evidenced-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012, Article ID 740813.
 Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 2003;27:123-7
 Flav and Frag. May 2013; 28(3): 168-173
 J Ethnopharmacol 2003;89:67-71.
 Int J Geriatr Psychiatry 2007;22:405-10.
This article was originally published in 2012 and has been updated.